I know it’s a bit late to talk about what was hot last year, but I thought I would give it a go. I had been going through a reading slump for the last six years or so. In September 2017, I decided to end this slump and get back to my old habits. Hence, my list of the best books of 2017 is not that long. I have read some really amazing books that have made me very happy to be back with my most beloved posessions. The following books are not in any particular order, just random ranking as they came into my head.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
I have always loved History as a subject, but books based on the two World Wars leave me feeling bleak and depressed. So, as a rule, I avoid reading about these wars.
The Alice Network proved to be a surprise in that regard. It is a very sad story based on very real people who sacrificed their lives during World War I and II. Yet, it is a completely immersive tale.
Women spies have been a source of fascination and wonder since time immemorial. Everyone has definite ideas about female spies; they’re either pious angels, or promiscuous devils; either black, or white; no greys. The Alice Network forces you to look at female spies as courageous women who served their countries by taking risks and endangering their own lives. Their ground realities were starkly different from everyone else. They operated in a reality that we cannot even fathom.
Written in the voices of two different women, in two different eras, this book tells us about how spy networks were the backbone of the two sides during both World War I and World War II. I found it hard to put the book down as it took me through two wars simultaneously, and merged two stories together seamlessly. That the wit and intelligence presented has a basis in truth, makes me even more in awe of these great females that worked for the Alice Network.
The Rules of Magic By Alice Hoffman
This is by far my favourite book from last year. It is so far removed from my usual favourites that even I was taken by surprise.
“Fall in love whenever you can.” The last rule of magic is the enemy of the Owens family. They are cursed in matters of love, yet they are destined to be followed by love all their lives.
The Rules of Magic is a magical book. It pulls you in and refuses to let you go. You are entangled in the lives of the three children of Susanna Owens, who wants to keep them away from the cursed legacy of their family. But it is a great folly to hide your true self. Truth has a way of coming out, and it is better to accept who you are than keep lying for the rest of your life.
The story may be about witches and magic, but what it embodies is true for all human beings, witch or not. Life is full of good and bad, so accept everything that life throws at you and draw strength from these experiences. Loving and losing is all part of life, and avoiding love does not mean avoiding pain. The only way to live is to be true to yourself.
After a long time, a book has touched me so much that I could feel the pain of the characters. As I look back on the book, I can find nothing out of the ordinary that makes it special, but it is true that I cried with the characters. It has touched my heart somehow and I see myself picking up this book to read again and again. It reaffirms my belief that in order to live well we must “Love more, not less.”
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I had never read anything by Celeste Ng before. Little Fires Everywhere was my introduction to the author. And what an introduction!
The book starts with actual little fires everywhere in the Richardson house in Shaker Heights. From there, we’re taken back in time to around a year ago and how the events from that time culminated in the house being burned to ground.
It is a good lesson in how there are always two sides to every issue, and the way everyone looks at things is coloured by their own experiences. Sometimes there is no right or wrong way of doing things, you just have to make the best of what you have.
Reading the book left me feeling quite emotional, and I really hate it when things are not tied up neatly and everyone doesn’t get their just deserves. But I also love such climaxes because they leave a lot to your imagination. And that way the book experience is never the same for two people.
It is not a thriller. There are no murders, no crazy psychopaths, no robberies, no mysteries. This is just the story of how a few months impacted so many lives; a small glimpse into a community during the 90s. A good read.
The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
What an intense thriller! I had never read any books by Karin Slaughter and this was a great introduction to the author. The narrative is quite graphic, and not for the faint of heart. It grips you from the first chapter and you find yourself wanting to know what happens next.
The story revolves around a family torn apart by a tragic attack twenty eight years ago, which leaves all of them with scars, both physical and psychological. Charlotte thinks that she has come a long way from her nightmarish ordeal almost thirty years ago. She is a good lawyer, not like her notorious father who is willing to represent anyone regardless of their guilt.
One morning, she gets caught in a school shooting that threatens to expose everything she has worked so hard to keep inside her. As things get worse, Charlie’s life starts to unravel around her and there is only one person who can help her become whole again. But they haven’t seen or spoken to each other in a long, long time, and there are some wounds that just refuse to heal.
There are some sequences that are truly horrifying and leave the reader close to tears. However, the solid narrative and story make it very hard to put the book down.
Underlying the narrative is the theme of a father’s love for his daughters and how he believes, I think quite rightly, that everyone needs a different kind of love. One of the best thrillers that I have ever read. Definitely a must read for all lovers of this genre.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
When I picked up this book, I absolutely expected to get bored with it and have trouble finishing it. After all, I have never had patience with long, rambling narratives about people’s lives. So, it was a surprise when I finished the book in just one day because I couldn’t put it down!
This is the story of Evelyn Hugo, a Hollywood mega star, and her equally famous and ill-fated marriages. Evelyn wants to tell her real story to the world, but only if Monique Grant writes it. Intrigued by why a Hollywood movie icon would want a little-known journalist, Monique agrees to write the biography, little knowing the effect it will have on her.
The character of Evelyn is such that you dislike her, yet root for her at the same time. She is ambitious and ruthless, but there are some aspects to her life that are very painful. Like her One True Love, who is forbidden to her, and her best friend, who is ready to do anything for her.
As far as the book itself goes, while captivating, it feels like some parts of the story are just glossed over without any details. I don’t like lengthy narrative, but there are a couple of things that I felt that I needed to know more about. Still, it does not take anything away from the story itself. It sort of reminded me of A Woman of Substance and Master of the Game, but only because of the strong female protagonist who will go to any lengths to get what she wants.